Video by Julia Zumpano, RD
Women's Cardiovascular Center
Cleveland Clinic Department of Cardiovascular Medicine
Hello, my name is Julia Zumpano and I’m a registered dietitian who works with patients at Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center. I get a lot of questions about whether the latest fad diets are the best way to help patients lose weight and protect their hearts, and that is what I would like to talk about today.
The most common reason that people start on fad diets is to lose weight fast. While many people can shed pounds quickly on fad diets, this weight loss is usually temporary. Pounds are added back on just as quickly as they were lost as soon as dieters go back to their old eating habits. Therefore the main problem with fad diets is that they do not teach you how to eat healthy for life.
Many fad diets that are popular today recommend eliminating or adding food, or food groups, that you wouldn’t normally eat. These diets are virtually impossible to stick with long term.
Another extremely popular fad has been the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. While several variations on this basic theme exist, the main concern is that these diets call for the elimination of one or more food groups, which instead causes dieters to increase their total fat intake. These diets emphasize animal protein and processed foods therefore, the type of fat more often chosen is saturated or trans fat– Often eliminating fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Typically, dieters who lose weight through elimination diets regain the weight they lost – and often more – once the previously restricted food groups are reintroduced. This happens because depriving yourself of a certain food group can cause increased cravings for that particular item. This can frequently lead to a lack of control after that once-forbidden item is added back into the diet.
Many health professionals also are concerned about the long-term risks of these high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets. The high levels of saturated fat in animal products often consumed in these diets is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. The unbalanced nature of these diets also can cause nutritional deficiencies in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals such as folate, vitamin C, potassium and many others, which can lead to serious health problems.
Another problem with diets that shun carbs, such as breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables, in turn causing a very low fiber intake which can lead to constipation. In general, these diets are the opposite of what health organizations such as the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and American Dietetics Association recommend for heart health.
Fad diets that offer pre-packaged foods also remain very popular. The basic premise is that if you follow these diets strictly and eat only packaged foods in the recommended amounts, then you should lose weight. Sounds easy. But the problem here is that little education is provided to the consumer on general healthy eating Although pre-packaged food based diets are appealing to many since they are considered convenient, these diets don’t teach consumers how to make heart-healthy choices on their own – whether in a restaurant, a grocery store, or whenever access to the pre-packaged food isn’t readily available. This makes such a diet hard to sustain. These products also can be expensive and often aren’t sources of natural occurring nutrients, the best ones for the body. They commonly fail to include or emphasize adequate amounts of non-animal sources of protein, fruits, vegetables, whole grains or high fiber foods, all of which are essential for heart health. Often these foods can be very high in sodium, trans fats and saturated fat, despite their low caloric value.
Instead of relying on fad diets, Cleveland Clinic’s Women’s Cardiovascular Center encourages a focus first on healthy eating, not simply weight loss. A diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, non-meat protein sources, lean animal protein, and soluble fibers are ideal. This diet plan is one you can live with forever. It doesn’t require special or expensive food and is adaptable to any situation. If you follow a heart healthy diet, you should be able to manage your weight without counting calories or trying to comply with some impractical diet plan. Our team works with individuals to tailor heart-protecting strategies that fits his or her likes, dislikes and lifestyle. Finding a solution that will work for life – that is the true secret to heart healthy eating. For further questions, please contact us at Women’s Cardiovascular Center. Thank you.
For More Information
For individualized goal setting and nutrition counseling, including a thorough nutrition assessment utilizing your nutritional history, medical history, body mass index, risk factor evaluation, and labwork as needed, you have two options:
A portion of this FAQ video is supported by the Alpha Phi 2005 Cardiac Care Award.